Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Precautions For Pets

With the holidays here, a lot of homes are decorated with all sorts of glittery and bright colored things. Some items can be toxic, such as poinsettia plants, holly, and other materials used in creating decorations. Wreaths, for example, can be made from artificial greens or from real ones. Table centerpieces may include toxic plant matter as well.

If you have a tree in the house, all the ornaments hanging on it may catch anyone's attention and imagination, including kids, cats, and the dog! Some pets are very well behaved and can be taught to leave them alone, but don't count on it when you aren't present.

Then, as the end of the year approaches, more parties are planned, maybe at your house. There might be food items that pets should not get into, including beverages that include alcohol.

And then there might be fireworks in your neighborhood on New Year's Eve. Just remember how this worked for your dog over the Fourth of July and take the same precautions to prevent anxiety from loud noises and a lot of activity in the household.

You may be celebrating, but remember to include your dog's best interests, too. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Costumes For Dogs?

Every year we have fun dressing the kids up for Halloween, but what if you don't have kids? Or what if the kids want to take the family dog with them for Trick-or-Treat? More people now are even answering their doors in costume and like to include the family dog for that, too.

Should your dog wear a costume?

We've seen some really weird ones, some really funny ones, and some that probably should not be worn by anyone, even a pet rock.

Just as with the children, a costume should be comfortable, safe and practical. If it hurts, annoys or restricts your dog's movement, it probably is not the right outfit. It should be loose enough to allow normal movement as well as "breathing room." Too tight, and it could get too hot as well.

Remember, your dog doesn't know what Halloween is and may be very stressed out about the extra activity and noise. However, if your dog has been in your family long enough, he may be happy about the extra attention he gets, and is probably motivated to do whatever pleases his owner. Some dogs may feel better if allowed to sit out the festivities in a quiet bedroom, while others seem to enjoy the extra petting and attention.

Just be in tune with your dog's needs and Trick or Treat night should go very well.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Time to Say Good-bye to a Swell Dog

It's always a sad thing to have to send a loved pet to the "other side," but sometimes it's the kindest thing to do if they are suffering.

Jager, our beagle/lab mix, was almost 16 years old and had had a good life here on our farm for the last four years. He was a rescue dog and had lived a varied life. But his happiest times were here, chasing rabbits, sniffing all the animal trails, playing with the other dogs, and just sunning himself wherever and whenever he wanted to.

So when he developed a malignant tumor on his face, we were all terribly disappointed that he wouldn't be here very much longer. Treatment for his condition, provisionally diagnosed as a fibrosarcoma, would be over-the-top expensive, with no assurances of a good outcome. In fact, the prognosis included the very real possibility that he might not survive surgery.

Chemo and radiation are extremely expensive, too, with the same lack of promises.

So we let him enjoy his last summer here with us, doing as he pleased. We may have petted him a little more, or talked to him more often (though he was deaf already), and provided more of his favorite foods and treats.

Then the day came. It was not a choice anymore. It had become a necessity. He needed to be helped out of this life, to be freed from the pain and disabilities that seemed to be piling up faster now. See, he was having strokes now, too, and some days he was unable to walk normally. He would recover from these strokes and resume the ability to run again, but he was never as energetic and strong as he had been.

Now it was time.... and we were lucky to find the perfect veterinarian to do it. She and her assistant and I lovingly circled around him as he lay on the treatment table and hugged and petted him till he thought he had already gone to heaven!

Then the vet gently and painlessly inserted the final needle, and Jager fell asleep very quickly, but with love all around him. And I think he knew it.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

How Are You Handling "Dog Days of Summer" Heat?

Are the Dog Days of Summer getting you down? How about your dog? If the heat bothers you, chances are good it's bothering your beloved dog, too. When we hear about people dying during hot weather, you can be sure there are a lot of dogs dying, too, but we don't hear about it on the news.

How can you help your dog make it through this intense summer? Here are some tips to keep your dog alive:

1. Keep the dog inside your house, especially during the heat of the day. Provide a cool spot in your home if you don't have air conditioning, such as a room with linoleum rather than carpeting. Even a "shady spot" outside may not provide enough cooling for a dog.

2. Be sure there is always clean, cool water...always!

3. Never leave your dog inside a car...not even for "just a minute." It can literally become an oven in there, within just a few moments. If you see a dog inside someone else's car, and you can't get hold of the owner (or if they refuse to do anything) call the police. It could mean the difference between life and death.

4. Help your dog cool off with frozen treats, such as a frozen Kong toy with peanut butter in it, or simply put ice cubes into his water bowl. You can also wet a bandana to wrap around his neck. But it will need to be wetted frequently if the heat dries it out too fast.

5. If your dog shows signs of heat stroke or exhaustion, run, don't walk, to the veterinarian.

Signs of heat stroke may include anxiety, rapid panting, excessive drooling and weakness. The gums may be bright red in the early stages, but if he goes into shock, they will become pale.

If he's outside, just pour cool water over the back of the head, then keep his head and belly areas cool on your way to the vet's office. Frozen cold packs are good, if you have any. If he has collapsed, he will need special medical care to make it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's Time to Think About 4th of July Pet Safety Again!

Here are some tips to help your dog, as well as you and your guests, have a happy Fourth of July:

1. If your dog is the nervous type, you might want to keep him inside the house, possibly in his own room, during those moments of greatest stimulation, such as fireworks or strange people in the house or yard, and give him something to do... a toy or a treat... and a comforting place to lie down, such as his own dog bed or crate.

2. Leave the TV or radio on as background noise to help alleviate any nervousness from unfamiliar or loud noises.

3. If your dog is more social and wants to be outside with you, as during a backyard barbecue, be sure he is supervised or leashed. You don't want him to run away if the hustle and bustle are unnerving to him.

4. If he does get out and runs away, it will help to have an ID tag on his collar so he can be safely returned.

5. To help everyone have a positive experience, you may wish to let your guests give Fido a treat when they arrive. If he is on a controlled diet, perhaps a good head rub will be enough. Otherwise, put the dog in his own space until things have settled down.

6. Be careful your guests aren't slipping him tasty scraps from their own plates, either. Explain to them that certain items could be toxic or dangerous, such as chicken or steak bones, chocolate, grapes, onions, etc.

7. You can help your dog achieve a more relaxed mental state by taking him for a walk before your party begins.

If you have more than one dog, it can be more challenging, but the same tips apply. If everyone present is known to the dog(s), it will be less of a problem for everyone, too.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!